How much do you know about the history of Costessey Hall?
PUBLISHED: 13:39 26 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:39 26 March 2018
It was almost a century ago when the last tenants of an incredible Gothic folly in Norfolk were preparing to leave, making way for the demolition teams to move in and rid us of a building like no other.
During the First World War Costessey Hall and Park were commandeered by the War Office and thousands of troops moved in treating the buildings and parkland as battlegrounds.
When they left following the end of the war, it was in a sorry state.
It had already been empty before the conflict and once the regiments of infantry, cavalry and artillery who trained there, moved on in 1918, the writing was on the wall for this once magnificent hall.
Leading historian John Martin Robinson wrote in his book Felling the Ancient Oaks: How England Lost its Great Country Estates: “It was a notable loss among 20th century house demolitions, both for the original 16th century Hall of the Jerninghams and Buckler’s pinnacle and towered extensions, which were the finest example of scholarly and romantic Regency Tudor revival.
“Even Edward Jerningham’s Perpendicular Revival Chapel of 1809, with its ancient stained glass (which sold for £17,000) was demolished.”
He added: “Suburban houses encroach on three sides of the park, though some tree planting on the golf course is a reminder of the Georgian landscape, now otherwise lost.
“Despite its antiquity, Costessey has something of the aura of a theatre set, which rose and fell in a night leaving hardly a wrack behind.”
All that is left is a ruin which casts a shadow over the manicured greens and fairways of the fine golf course. But it is a reminder of different times.
Its historic owners, the Jerninghams, were a medieval knightly family who had remained Catholic after the 16th century Reformation and split of the English church.
The founder of the Costessey branch of the family was Sir Henry Jerningham, who died in 1571, the eldest son of Sir Edward Jernegan of Somerleyton and Huntingfield, Suffolk.
He was one of the first to declare for Queen Mary Tudor, then living at Kenninghall.
She appointed him captain of her guard. He went with her from Yarmouth to London for her coronation and defended her from enemies and rebellions.
In return, Mary looked after Henry, showering honours on him and granting him several manors in Norfolk and Suffolk – including Costessey in 1555.
He rebuilt the hall in the Tudor style and it would be the seat of the family into the 18th century. The prominent Roman Catholic family married into the likes of the Throckmortons, Howards, Plowdens, Blounts and Bedingfields. Well known local names.
The driving force behind the ostentatious refitting of Costessey Hall was Frances Henrietta Xaveria Stafford, who married Sir William George Jerningham in 1799. They were said by the Prince Regent to be “the most handsome couple in London.”
She spent freely, too freely, and the hall, at the heart of the large estate, was never fully finished.
In 1824 Sir George William Jerningham became the eighth Baron Stafford and his son entertained the Prince and Princess of Wales – later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The Royal party stayed for three days at an enormous cost. It was the high point of Costessey life.
From then on the only way was down...the estate was inherited by a succession of elderly bachelors.
The lavish contents of the hall were sold at Christie and owners of other large estates. The house had been empty at the time of the First World War when the troops moved in and when they left it was the end of an era.
Norfolk’s fairytale castle was coming down.
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